9 minute read

What a Waste

Every year the average Kiwi household sends 89kgs of edible food to landfill. This figure does not include food scraps that can’t be eaten, like egg shells and banana peels. It also doesn’t include food wasted at the source or through our supply chain i.e. what producers, distributors, supermarkets and restaurants throw away.

RECIPES VICKI RAVLICH-HORAN | IMAGES ASHLEE DECAIRES

The problem is huge! But the real problem does not lie in the sheer waste: the waste of resources it takes to grow, store and transport food or the waste of money which we throw away each time we waste food. The real problem lies in the fallacy that because it’s compostable there is no harm sending it to landfill.

Food waste is the second largest cause of methane pollution. When you throw those potato peels or stale bread out and it ends up in landfill, it doesn’t decompose as nature designed. Instead, starved of oxygen, it breaks down anaerobically, producing methane gas, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

One-third of the world’s food goes to waste contributing to 6.7% of the world’s carbon emissions—if food waste was a country, it would be the third worst country behind the US and China.

Tackling food waste has a big impact and is a lot less complex than recycling, it’s easier than taking public transport and cheaper than installing solar panels. It’s something you can do now!

Plus, if you divert your compostable waste from landfill, it breaks down as nature intended, returning the nutrients to the earth, eliminating the need for artificial fertilisers and helping us to grow nutrient dense food.

Composting ‘waste’ is nature’s original carbon recycling system. 

What Can We Do?

The first step is to reduce your waste from the get-go; shop to a list, preferably one created from a meal plan, only buying what you need. Those ‘buy two get one free’ offers seem like great value—except when you end up throwing half away. Wayne Good from Arkanda suggests you “shop as you need, not as a habit”. Wayne says, “My fridge always has very little in it except milk, condiments, butter, cheese etc.” This method requires a lot of discipline! “It’s very easy to go in for a bottle of milk and come out with sixty dollars’ worth of stuff,” admits Wayne.

Buying just what you need is behind Huckleberry’s refill hub. Not only does buying from bulk bins cut down on packaging (as you can bring your own), but it means you can buy just what you need. Emma from Falls Retreat believes having a garden is a great solution, as you can pick what you need when you need it.

Wayne’s method of shopping often and only for what you need eliminates food going off before you can use it, but if shopping daily doesn’t work for you, you need to learn to store your food correctly to get as long a life out of it as possible.

Samsung’s ingenious Family Hub fridge helps you with your shopping list, sending it to your phone. It can also alert you when food is about to expire. There are a number of great products for storing food from sachets that absorb the ethalene in your vege bin or these ingenious Fresh Paper Sheets (available at www.gildededge. co.nz), which also keep your fruit and vegetables as well as your bread and baked goods fresher longer.

Your freezer is also a great tool with so many foods, from egg whites to ripe bananas, bread to leftovers all fine to be frozen and extending their life for months. Just be sure to label everything clearly! Frozen lime juice looks just like egg whites—a lesson I learnt the hard way.

Don’t Scrap It

A good portion of food waste comes from food prep; throwing away food like potato peels and broccoli stalks. Take a look at the scraps you generate. Can they be eaten? Stop peeling potatoes and carrots and scrub them instead. You’ll reduce the waste and gain extra nutrients from their skin.

Chop those broccoli and cauliflower stalks up and use them in stir fries, salads and stews. Vegetable scraps like onion peel, carrot tips and celery roots can all be kept and used to make a flavoursome stock.

Parmesan Rinds – don’t throw these away! Toss them into your soups or stews or when making stock for a flavour boost.

SCRAPERS

If you have ever been through a juicing phase, you may have wondered what you can do with all the pulp. These crackers are one idea, as long as your juice is full of veg like carrot, spinach, kale, celery and beetroot, not orange and pineapple etc.

1½ cups flax seed

1¼ cup ground almonds

½ cup pumpkin seeds

¼ cup sunflower seeds

¾ cups veges, grated, or juicer scraps

2 tbsp sesame seeds

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

½ tsp sumac

1 tsp sea salt

If you’re using the oven, preheat it to its lowest setting and line a large baking tray with baking paper. If you’re using a dehydrator, set it up to 46°C and line the tray.

Place the flax seed in a bowl and just cover with water. After an hour all the liquid should have been soaked up by the flax seeds.

Add all the other ingredients to the soaked flax seeds and mix well. If the mixture seems too dry, add a little water, or if it is too sticky, add more ground almonds.

Tip the mixture onto the lined tray and begin flattening the dough out with a rolling pin (or just use your hands) until the dough is about 2mm thick.

Dry out in the low oven or dehydrator until crisp and dry. I find this takes around 12 hours. Once cooked, cut into squares and store in an airtight container. They should stay fresh for about a week.

WILTED GREEN BALLS

These ever-changing balls are the answer to all those now wilting greens you bought with good intentions of downing a green smoothie each morning or to a vege garden that goes crazy with more leafy greens than you can eat.

I love them served with zucchini noodles and a rich homemade tomato sauce. They also make great finger food served with a yoghurt dip.

Makes 14–16 balls

a big bunch of greens (8–10 cups spinach, kale, rocket…)

oil (I use extra virgin olive oil or sunflower)

1 onion, finely diced

1 tbsp cumin seeds

salt, to taste

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

½ cup herbs (coriander, basil, parsley…)

1 cup fresh or Panko breadcrumbs*

¼ cup crumbled feta

1–2 eggs

Pulse greens in a food processor or finely chop with a knife.

Heat a large pan over medium-low heat and add a dash of oil, the onion and cumin seeds. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and herbs and cook for a further minute.

Add greens to pan and sauté until they have wilted. Take off the heat and allow to cool. Add the breadcrumbs and feta. Mix well then check and adjust the seasoning.

Crack one egg into the bowl and mix with your hands to incorporate. Squeeze a small ball of the mixture. If it holds together, begin portioning out the remaining mixture into small balls. If it doesn't hold together, add another egg.

Heat oil in a pan before adding the balls—they should sizzle when they hit the oil. Turn heat down and cook until golden on all sides.

*Replace the breadcrumbs with cooked leftover rice for a gluten free version.

Every year Kiwis send 157,398 tonnes of food to landfill

Bananas

Bananas are one of our favourite fruits, but they can be troublesome; one day they’re green, the next speckled with black spots, which means the fussy ones won’t touch ’em. They are also one of the top fruits we waste with New Zealanders throwing away just under 5 tonnes a year!

Freeze them

Frozen bananas make the best smoothies! The trick is to peel and chop them first, then freeze them on a tray before storing in a container in the freezer. This will mean you will have no-fuss free-flow bananas whenever you need them.

Dos and Don’ts

As a tropical fruit, bananas don’t do well being chilled, so don’t be tempted to store them in the fridge. In the same breath, don’t store bananas in the fruit bowl with other fruit unless you’re trying to ripen them both fast. Bananas release ethylene gas through their stems, so to slow down their ripening you can try wrapping the stems.

BANANA BREAD

This versatile banana bread is another great answer to overripe bananas. If, after a couple of days, you haven’t managed to eat the loaf, it can be toasted and enjoyed in a whole new way.

2 cups flour

½ tsp baking soda

1 cup coconut sugar*

125g butter, softened

2 eggs

4 ripe bananas

1/3 cup plain low-fat yoghurt

1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream the sugar and butter in a large bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mash 3 of the bananas and add to the creamed butter along with the yoghurt and vanilla; beat until blended. Mix in the dry ingredients until just combined. Grease a large loaf tin before pouring in the mixture.

Slice the last banana down the middle and place on top.

Bake at 180°C for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean.

*You can replace the coconut sugar with white or brown sugar.

Mix it up Mix 1 cup of chocolate chips or berries into the batter just before baking

New Zealanders throw away almost $2 billion of food a year

MINESTRONE

Soups have long been a great way to make a nutritious meal out of very little, from those veg at the bottom of the fridge you may be tempted to throw out to a chicken carcass. This hearty soup-cum-stew is a wonderful way to make a delicious meal from your Sunday roast leftovers using not just the leftover meat but the bone for a flavoursome stock.

LAMB STOCK

1 tbsp olive oil

1 each onion, carrot, celery stalk and tomato

3 garlic cloves, chopped

6 thyme sprigs

2 tbs tomato paste

½ cup (125ml) white wine

leftover roast lamb bones

For the stock, heat oil in a large pot, add the onion, carrot, celery, tomato, garlic and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5–10 minutes or until onion has softened.

Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 2–3 minutes. Pour in the wine and cook for a further few minutes or until reduced slightly.

Add lamb bones along with 3L (12 cups) water, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 2 hours, skimming any foam from the surface. Remove from heat and set aside for 20 minutes to cool slightly. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl, discarding solids. Chill for 2 hours or until fat solidifies on surface then skim this off.

Once cooled, the stock can be kept in the fridge for up to a week or frozen to use in soups, stews etc at a later date.

¼ cup olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 carrots, finely chopped

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

1 zucchini, finely chopped

1 Parmesan rind

1 cup tomato passata

2 litres (8 cups) lamb stock

approx. 250g leftover cooked lamb, shredded

1–2 cups dried pasta*

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, carrot and celery, zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5–10 minutes or until onion has softened. Add Parmesan rind, passata, lamb stock plus 2 cups of water. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the shredded lamb and pasta and continue to simmer uncovered for a further 15 minutes or until the pasta is cooked.

*This is a great opportunity to use the odds and ends of pasta you have lying around as it doesn’t matter if they are all different shapes. Alternatively, if you want to keep this gluten free add in a tin of chick peas or cannellini beans.

Love Your Leftovers

After bread, leftovers are the second biggest category of food we waste. Instead of throwing out your leftovers, embrace them and what they offer, i.e. a free lunch.

Work leftovers into your meal plan, creating two meals from one, saving you time and money.

Frittata

With a few leftover roast veg or pumpkin, an onion, perhaps a bit of bacon or chorizo and any other veg (zucchini, mushrooms, capsicum, spinach…) bound together with egg and you suddenly have a great meal.

Serve it with toast and/or a salad and always a spoonful of your favourite chutney or relish. We love Peplers great range of small-batch, locally-made chutneys and relishes.

Back to Nature

There are a number of methods to turn your unavoidable food waste into valuable nutrients for the garden. I have both a compost bin (mainly for my garden waste), a worm farm and three productive chooks. The result is a lush garden and zero compostable waste being sent to landfill.

I also love seeing and supporting businesses who take responsibility for their waste. Pacifica Home and Garden Store have a composting system which takes care of the food scraps from their cafe as well as much of the shredded paper and packaging from the gift store.

Falls Retreat not only have a wonderful system composting all their waste, which then feeds their kitchen garden, they run workshops to teach others to do the same.

For more recipes, tips and tricks go to www.lovefoodhatewaste.co.nz or our website nourishmagazine.co.nz and search food waste.